All throughout history mankind has looked for a justice system that holds all people to account according to an international standard of law. It might surprise you to hear it was the original idea of a Frenchman’s, Pierre Dubois, who was an advisor to King Phillip the Fair of France.
The former proposed an international court in 1305, to replace the Catholic Church which then the arbiter. The end of World War I saw the establishment of the League of Nations, this meant that states could now resolve issues amicably.
The League of Nations failed in its main remit of preventing future world wars, it imposed punitive reparations on Germany which crippled the economy and allowed fertile ground for Hitler to come to power.
Whenever crises arose, the hierarchy of nations ranked some as higher than others. So when Italy invaded Ethiopia, the LON stood idly by as Mussolini used chemical weapons on innocents. Emperor Haile Selassie prophesied the next world war as he protested “Until the philosophy that holds one race superior and the other inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, there will be war.”
The international justice system after 1945 was designed to resolve issues between states, now the issue is about nations suing other nations in the name of people who they feel were wronged but who they assume are voiceless. There is a clear double standard at play, the richer and more powerful countries are using international justice to impose their will arbitrarily on less powerful nations.
One cannot compare local criminal justice to international criminal justice where economic interests are balanced with the rights of victims, who are advocated for and agitated for by human rights organisations.
No Western power is answerable to these international criminal courts and that is not to say there are no crimes to answer for. A bomb can be targeted at a house and kill 80 members of the same family at a wedding and nobody will ever be held accountable for this.
The ICC is an attempt to impose a new world order but could also be seen as neo-colonialist, an attempt to protect inferior people from themselves. The ICTR in Arusha could be called a travesty; only a few dozen genocide suspects have been convicted for the cost of more than a billion dollars. The standards of justice have been imposed from outside with little sensitivity to victims.
The UN draft report due to be released in October, is a crossroads for international justice, it is the choice between impunity and common sense. I cannot see the sense in the charges, it is one thing to accuse Rwanda of war crimes and another to accuse it of genocide, I predict that the word “Genocide” will be removed.
That will take some of the sting out of the report; the enemies of Rwanda needed the word “Genocide” to be included for it to have an effect. If the Western nations cannot submit to international justice, then why should the rest be held to double standards?
Rama Isibo is a social commentator